Face shields compared to face masks

Face shields are criticized for being less than perfect protection. The criticism ignores that masks may not protect the wearer at all. Here is a breakdown of how the two types of face coverings match up. This does not include the N-95 respirator masks that are strong filters:


Face Shields

Face Masks

Protection for the eyes from infected breath



Inhaling oncoming breath


Negligible blocking

Wearer’s Exhaled breath

Blocked to back

and down

Travels 1-3 ft

Keeping hands off eyes, nose and mouth


No blocking and encourages touching with adjustments.



Often annoying, uncomfortable and harmful to some


Cleanable with soap and water

Cloth must be washed. Paper should be disposed after use.

Aerosol clouds of viruses

Probably inhaled


Categories explained:

Protection for the eyes from infected breath:

You can get viruses floating in the air on your eyes, or from an infected person’s breath. There is a video on this site where a doctor explains how he got it through the eyes. Click here

Inhaling someone’s direct breath:

Nothing gets through a face shield. There are many types of masks.

  • N-95 Respirator masks catch 95% of particles. They are supposed to be discarded after each use. 3M company makes two other N-95 grade masks, but they are for non-virus uses.

  • The market is full of paper masks that have little value for trapping viruses. They are supposed to be discarded after each use. They re-used too often.

  • Cloth masks have little value for trapping viruses. There are some materials that claim to filter 75% of particles, but those are the biggest particles. Viruses are in the 25% smallest particles. This makes their effectiveness in doubt. Cloth masks are supposed to be washed after each use. Too often this isn’t done.

Too many have the misconception that they are getting protection wearing some kind of face mask. This creates a false sense of security with wearers talking often standing only a few feet apart-half the social distance of 6 ft. Not good.

Wearer’s Exhaled breath

Face shields block the wearer’s breath and send it backwards and downwards.

Face masks restrict how far the wearer’s breath travels. Instead of an unrestricted 4-6 ft, masks restrict to about 1-3 ft. This is their only real value. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health organization) acknowledge this and advise everyone in public to at least wear one.

Keeping hands off eyes, nose and mouth

Touching infected surfaces can get viruses on the fingers. Rubbing eyes, nose or mouth with infected fingers can cause infection.

Face shields block touching the face.

Face masks encourage touching near the nose from putting them on incorrectly and for adjustments. Wearers often pull the masks down to talk with potentially infected fingers. Then again putting them back on.


The best face shields bring air in and out from behind the wearer. The nose is not blocked. The amount of air going in and out varies by the design and can be modified to allow more air flow.

Face masks block the nose that is often annoying, uncomfortable and harmful to some with medical conditions like asthma. There is some claim that masks lower blood oxygen levels and that can cause health problems.


Face shields can be easily washed with soap and water or even just running water that washes them down the drain.

Face masks: Paper face masks are not supposed to be re-used. Cloth masks are supposed to be washed after each use. Too often, paper masks are re-used, while cloth masks are not cleaned after each use. Dirty face masks may pick up bacteria that can multiply with moisture and be breathed in to cause nasal, sinus and lung infections. These could be mistaken as allergies at first. 

In clouds of viruses

If an infected person is in an area for a prolonged period of time with limited or little air circulation, a cloud of droplets, or smaller aerosal particles with viruses on them can build up. When these dry up, the viruses themselves may float like dust. In a cloud of viruses, they can get around a face shield and get through face masks. The 6 ft social distances won’t work either if the cloud is big enough. This is something to be covered below.

Where are virus cloud dangers? Here are some examples of how an infected person can form a cloud that you can get into:

  • A Van or car

  • Restrooms and especially stalls

  • Any room especially with low ceilings with a high density of people even if 6 ft apart that has little outside air circulation like a bar or even a classroom.

Face shields can be home-made (click here) or bought (click here). Try different styles for comfort and different occasions. There is nothing wrong with having more than one.

Not all face shields are the same.

The best ones must:

  • Cover down to 4 inches or more below the chin unless it bends about 2-3 inches towards the throat. The bottom of a face shield should be bent in by you.
  • Sides should go back to at least an inch before the ears and be no more than an inch from the side of your head. You can usually bend the shield to fit this. 

Don’t worry if the bending isn’t perfect looking. Raising effectiveness is all-important.

What others are saying 

The NY Times on face shields

Inside edition TV on face shields

AARP: On face shields

US News and World Report on face shields

You can help save lives including maybe your own.

Vaccines are being applied to populations. It is going to take time for everyone to get one. There are also variant viruses in the UK, Brazil, South Africa, and probably Los Angeles and New York City. There will probably be more. They designed the current vaccines around the original Covid-19. They probably will not work as well against the variants. Scientists are learning about these as new data comes in. We will probably need new vaccines. It is also not yet know how long any vaccine will work.

For the foreseeable future, it is wise to continue wearing face shields or face masks (not as good); keeping social distances and avoiding stagnant air.

One infection can spread downstream to multiple infections exponentially. Preventing even one infection can avoid a lot of suffering and expense so take care of yourself and others. This virus war is far from over.

Face Shields get very little publicity in spite of their superiority to masks. Tell your friends on email, Facebook, clubs, churches and other social media. Tell media like newspapers and TV stations to let others know of a better option to face masks. Give them this web site.